Tumburu (Zanthoxylum alatum) Information, Medicinal Uses and Warning

The Latin name of Tumbru or Toothache tree is Zanthoxylum alatum. As the common name of the tree suggests it is used traditionally to get relief from tooth ache. It has numbing effect on teeth and gums. In Ayurveda, it is used for skin diseases, loss of smell, heaviness and pain in head, chronic coryza and arthritis.

In Unani the fruits, seeds and bark are used as a carminative, stomachic and anthelmintic.

Tumburu medicinal uses
Von Kenraiz - Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18494072

General Information

Tumburu is a medicinal plant native to North America. It is a small thorny tree or shrub, up to 6 m high, with dense foliage and mainly found in the valleys of the Himalayas at an altitude of 1000 to 2100 m, in Khasi hills at 600 to 1800 m, and in the Ghats in peninsular India. Its branches have nearly straight prickles up to 1.2 cm long.

Leaves are distinctively trifoliate with the leaf-stalk winged. Leaflets are stalk less, 2.0-7.5 × 1.0-1.7 cm, ellipticto ovate-lace like, entire to slightly toothed, sharp tipped, base sometimes oblique.

Minute yellow flowers arise in leaf axils. Flowers have 6-8 acute sepals. Petals are absent. Male flowers have 6-8 stamens and large anthers because of which the flowers look yellow. Female flowers have 1-3 celled ovary, 3 mm in diameter, pale red, splitting into two when ripe.

The fruits of tree are reddish-brown, sub-globose and contains a single seed in follicle. Seeds are globose, glabrou and shiny black. They are about upto 0.5 cm long, and about 0.3 cm wide. The aromatic seeds taste pungent.

Scientific Classification

The botanical name of Tumburu / Toothache Tree is Zanthoxylum alatum. It belongs to plant family Rutaceae. Below is given taxonomical classification of plant.

  • Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
  • Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
  • Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
  • Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
  • Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
  • Subclass: Rosidae
  • Order: Sapindales
  • Family: Rutaceae – Rue family
  • Genus: Zanthoxylum L. – pricklyash
  • Species: Zanthoxylum alatum


  1. Zanthoxylum armatum DC.
  2. Zanthoxylum planispinum Siebold & Zucc

Part(s) used for medicinal purpose: fruit, bark and stem

Plant type: Shrub, aromatic, prickly, dioecious

Distribution: North East India, Kashmir to Bhutan. Also found in most of China, Taiwan, Nepal,

Philippines, Malaysia, Pakistan and Japan at altitudes of 1,300-1,500 m.

Native to: North America

Flowering period: from March to April

Other uses: Seeds used as spice

Common names /Synonyms

  1. Latin name: Zanthoxylum alatum
  2. Sanskrit: Tumburu, Tejovati (Bark), Tejovali, Tejohva, Tejbatee
  3. Assamese: Tejovati
  4. Bengali: Tejovati, Nepali Dhania, Gaira
  5. English: Tooth ache tree, Nepal Pepper
  6. Gujrati: Tejbal
  7. Garhwal: Tezbal, Tezmal;
  8. Hindi: Tejbal, Nepali Dhaniya, Timura, Darmar
  9. Kannada: Tejapatri, Tumburu, Tejovanti
  10. Malayalam: Thumboonal, Thumbooni
  11. Marathi: Tejbal, Tejobalee
  12. Oriya: Tejbal
  13. Punjabi: Tirmira, Tundopoda
  14. Tamil: Thejyovathi
  15. Telugu: Tumburl
  16. Urdu: Kabab-e-Khanda (Miswak)
  17. Unani: Faaghir, Kabaab-e-Khandaan
  18. Siddha: Tejyovathi
  19. Arabic: Fagrieh
  20. Nepal: Prumo, Prumu, Tebun, Tejbal, Tejphal, Timur, Yerma
  21. Philippines: Chi-it, Sibit-paklauit
  22. Thailand: Mak kak

Constituents of Zanthoxylum alatum

The root contains magnoflorine, xanthoplanine, skimmianine, dictamine and gamma-fagarine.

Seeds contain flavonoids tambulin and tambulol.

The essential oil from dried fruits contains linalool (64%), linalyl acetate, citral, geraniol methyl cinnamate, limonene and sabinene.

Dried bark and branches contain lignans—sesamin, fargesin, eudesmin, a lactone pulviatide, dictamine, 8-hydroxydictamine and gamma-fagarine, magnoflorine and xanthoplanine.

Leaves contain rnethyl-n-nonylketone, linalyl acetate, sesquiterpenehydrocarbons and tricosane.

Ayurvedic Properties and Action

Tumbru (Nepali Dhaniya) seeds are bitter and pungent in taste (Ras) and dry, sharp and light in action (Guna). Its taste after digestion (Vipak) is Katu or Pungent. It aggravates pitta and alleviates aggravated Vata / Vayu and Kapha.

It cures krimi (parasitic infection), low appetite and durgandhya (foul smell coming out of the body). It mainly acts on excretory, circulatory, digestive and respiratory system.

Rasa (taste on tongue): Katu (Pungent), Tikta (Bitter)

Guna (Pharmacological Action): Laghu (Light), Tikshna (Sharp), Ruksha (Dry)

Virya (Action): Ushna (Heating)

Vipaka (transformed state after digestion): Katu (Pungent)


Dipan (promote appetite but do not aid in digesting undigested food)

Krimighna (destroys worms)

Kapha-Vata har (Remover of the Humor of Kapha-Vata)

Pachan (assist in digesting undigested food, but do not increase the appetite)

Ruchikarak (improve taste)

Important Ayurvedic Formulations

  1. Hingvadi Taila
  2. Madusnhi rasayan
  3. Dantmanjan

Important Medicinal Properties

Tumburu is rich in medicinal properties. The understanding of these properties will help us to better utilize this herb. Below is given medicinal properties along with the meaning.

  1. Astringent, Antibacterial and Antiseptic
  2. Antiplaque: Acting to prevent or remove plaque
  3. Carminative: Preventing the formation or causing the expulsion of flatulence.
  4. Diaphoretic: promote sweating.
  5. Hypoglycemic: Reducing level of the sugar glucose in the blood.
  6. Stomachic: stimulates gastric activity.
  7. Tonic: Restore or improve health or well-being.
  8. Vermifuge: destroys or expels parasitic worms (anthelmintic)

Medicinal uses of Tumburu / Toothache tree

Tumburu is a medicinal tree. Its leaves, roots, and seeds are used for medicinal purpose. In Ayurveda, the seeds are used in treatment of digestive impairment, piles, heart diseases, hiccups, cough, throat disorders, asthma, and dental diseases.

Stem bark is used in cough, asthma, difficult breathing, and rheumatism.

1. Asthma, difficult breathing

Chewing few seeds of tree are useful.

2. Arthritis, joint swelling, pain in joints

Prepare a decoction, by boiling 5 grams of fresh leaves or 10 grams of dried leaves in one glass water till water reduces to one fourth. Filter this and drink once-twice a day.

3. Boils

The fine faste of roots is applied externally.

4. Cough

Prepare decoction of seeds and drink once-twice a day.

5. Cholera (Vishuchika in Ayurveda)

The decoction of bark is used traditionally to treat cholera.

6. Ear ache

Tumburu + Sonth + Hing are cooked in mustard oil to prepare medicated oil. This is used an ear drop.

7. Gum bleeding

Bark powder mixed with honey, massaged on gums give relief in gum bleeding.

8. Mouth-freshener

The fruits of plant are chewed.

9. Skin diseases, Eczema, vitiation of blood

Prepare a decoction, by boiling 5 grams of fresh leaves or 10 grams of dried leaves in one glass water till water reduces to one fourth. Filter this and drink once-twice a day.

10. Swelling

The poultice of warm leaves is applied topically.

11. Stomatitis

Prepare decoction and use as gargle.

12. Roundworms

The decoction of seeds or intake of seeds in any form helps to expel roundworms.

13. Toothache

Crush the seeds and put under aching tree.

The bark of tree is chewed to get relief from tooth ache.

14. Tooth powder

Mix powder of (in equal amount) Tumbru seeds + Amal + Haritaki + Vibhitaki + Haldi + Sendha Namak to make a Tooth powder.

15. Teeth cleaning

Use twig of tree as Datun.

16. Ulcers, drying up and healing old wounds

The powdered bark is applied topically.

Dosage of Zanthoxylum alatum

  • The seeds can be consumed in dose of 2-4 grams.
  • 5-16 years: ½ adult usage levels
  • 1-5 years: ¼ adult usage levels
  • Stem bark 10-20 grams for preparation of decoction.

Caution, Side effects, Warning

  • It is hot in potency.
  • Hot potency medicines should not be used in pregnancy.
  • Fruits of plant are emmenagogues (emmenagogs) and stimulate blood flow in the pelvic area and uterus. It can stimulate menstruation.
  • It is rough, hot and irritant.
  • It may cause burning sensation in abdomen.
  • It increases sweating.
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